H. Orri Stefánsson joins as the BJPS as Associate Editor

The Editors are delighted to announce another new member of the BJPS team. H. Orri Stefánsson (Stockholm University) joins the BJPS as Associate Editor.

BJPS Stats for 2018, Part 1

Information about the number of submissions, acceptance rates, and decision times for 2018. Part 2 will cover demographic information.

Referee of the Year 2018

The editors of the BJPS are delighted to announce that Adrian Currie (Exeter) has been chosen as Referee of the Year 2018, for his willingness to act as a referee, for his timeliness in completing reports, and for the very high quality of those reports.

Join the BJPS Editorial Team

The BSPS invites expressions of interest regarding the appointment of a new Co-Editor-in-Chief for the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, to join current Co-Editor-in-Chief Wendy Parker and Assistant Editor Elizabeth Hannon.

New Virtual Issue: Bell’s Theorem 55 Years On

The Editors of the BJPS are delighted to announce the publication of a new virtual issue. Following on from the success of previous issues on Kuhn and the philosophy of psychology and cognitive science, BJPS Associate Editor Peter Lewis has drawn together papers from the journal that have critically explored Bell’s theorem and its philosophical upshot. The full issue can be found here, but we’ve reproduced Peter’s introduction below. Enjoy!

BJPS Popper Prize 2018

We are delighted to be able to announce that Jonah N. Schupbach has been awarded the 2018 BJPS Popper Prize for his article ‘Robustness Analysis as Explanatory Reasoning‘.

How Philosophy of Science Relates to Scientific Practices | Angela Potochnik

It’s widely appreciated that contemporary philosophy of science, when done well, engages with actual scientific practices. Philosophers should not sit back (in armchairs, of course), consider what we think good science would look like, then inform scientists of our findings. Rather, current thinking goes, we should take seriously what scientists actually do, using these practices as the starting points for our philosophical accounts of the aims, processes, and products of science.

BJPS Papers in The Philosopher’s Annual 2017

The BJPS is pleased to note that two of the papers it published last year have been included in The Philosopher’s Annual top ten papers of 2017. These papers have been made free to access, with links below.

Podcasts: BSPS Annual Conference

If you didn’t make it to this year’s BSPS annual conference in Oxford, we’ve teamed up with Philosophy Streaming to record the Presidential Address and the plenary discussions for your listening pleasure!

[Updated] Peer Review or Perish: The Problem of Free Riders in Philosophy | Beth Hannon

As any journal editor will tell you (at length, possibly via the medium of rant), the trickiest part of the job is not the papers, not the authors, and not even the typesetters. It’s the referees. It is no mean feat to secure referees who are, first, reliable in their academic judgement, second, responsive to emails, and third, willing to return reports when they say they will. But the frustrations of editors aside, the far more pressing concern is for the career prospects of early-career researchers. Jobs and funding can depend on timely decisions. Indeed, whether an early-career researcher gets to become a mid- or late-career researcher can depend on whether a decision is made in a reasonable amount of time.

BJPS Popper Prize 2017

The Editors of the BJPS and the BSPS committee are delighted to announce that Grant Ramsey and Andreas de Block are the 2017 winners of the BJPS Popper Prize for their article ‘Is Cultural Fitness Hopelessly Confused?’.

Lakatos Award Lectures

Endowed by the Latsis Foundation, the Lakatos Award is given to an outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science. Winners are presented with a medal and given the chance to deliver a lecture based on the winning work. To celebrate the 2015 and the 2016 award winners—Thomas Pradeu and Brian Epstein, respectively—they each delivered a lecture at the LSE last week. Introduced by Hasok Chang, Pradeu’s lecture is entitled ‘Why Philosophy in Science? Re-Visiting Immunology and Biological Individuality’ and Epstein’s is ‘Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences’.

The Metaphysical Status of Quantities | J. E. Wolff

Paradigmatic physical attributes, like energy, mass, length, charge, or temperature are quantities. That these attributes are quantitative is important for experiments (they can be measured), as well as theories (we can formulate quantitative laws that hold between them). Quantities are arguably central to science, and especially to the physical sciences. Quantities pose peculiar epistemological and metaphysical challenges.

Compatibilism about Chance and Determinism | Nina Emery

Suppose that it is already determined that the coin I just flipped will land heads. Can it also be the case that that very coin, on that very flip, has some chance of landing tails? Intuitively, the answer is no. But according to an increasing number of contemporary philosophers, especially philosophers of physics, the answer is yes.

Christian Wüthrich’s ‘The Temporal and Atemporal Emergence of (Space-)Time’

Christian Wüthrich delivered one of the plenary talks at this summer’s BSPS conference in Edinburgh and lo! It was recorded (future is now!).

A Hot Mess: Inflation and Fine-Tuning | Casey McCoy

Given the suggested philosophical nature of cosmology, it may seem somewhat surprising that philosophers have paid relatively little attention to the physical study of cosmology, namely, what one might call the science of little ‘u’ physical universes. If philosophy aims at understanding the Universe, then surely an important piece of the complete story is to be found in its physics.

IF and Only IF

Another year, another impact factor. Thomson Reuters, who compile the figures, have released their 2017 report and the BJPS continues to perform very well (a brief explanation of the IF can be found here). We’ve jumped from last year’s 1.738 to a not-to-be-sniffed-at 1.985.

Sommerfeld’s Miracle: The Ultimate Challenge to Scientific Realism | Peter Vickers

A ‘no miracles’ argument is still prevalent in the scientific realism debate, even if a lot has changed since Hilary Putnam’s formulation of it, and even if the word ‘miracle’ is generally avoided. For example, realists think that if the most central ‘working’ parts of a scientific theory were not even approximately true (for any serious theory of ‘approximate truth’), then it would be incredibly unlikely (‘miraculous’) for that theory to deliver successful novel predictions with ‘perfect’ quantitative accuracy (e.g. to several significant figures). It would be like perfectly predicting the time and position of the next solar eclipse based on a completely false (not even approximately true) model of how the sun, moon, and earth interact. Here it is appropriate to talk in terms of ‘counterexamples’ to scientific realism: any historical case where a scientific theory delivered ‘perfect’ predictions but where the central working parts of the theory are now thought to be radically false would be a very serious thorn in the side of nearly every contemporary scientific realist position.

Making Sense of Scents: The Science of Smell | Ann-Sophie Barwich

While we have a better understanding of the olfactory pathway today, many of the central questions remain unresolved. How do you classify smells and how do you make their perception comparable? (And how do you control the volatile stimulus, its concentration, and its administration in psychophysical studies?) What are the perceptual dimensions of smell? Are there such things as primary odours? How does the brain represent smells? From this perspective, the discovery of how the sense of smell works presents us with an intriguing, yet untold, history of creativity in scientific reasoning.

Scientific Explanation from the History and Philosophy of Science to General Philosophy of Science | Lina Jansson

Philosophers of science of all stripes draw on the history of science. However, within philosophy of science there are diverging trends between literature in the history and philosophy of science and the work in (what often goes under the name of) ‘general’ philosophy of science. With the caveat that what follows paints a picture with very broad brushstrokes, the trend among those working on integrated history and philosophy of science is towards recognizing particular differences between scientific fields, periods, and practitioners. On the other hand, the driving motivation in general philosophy of science is towards unified frameworks and theories.

Popper Prize 2016

The decision of the Co-Chief-Editors of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science is that the Sir Karl Popper Prize for 2016 should be awarded jointly to Elizabeth Irvine for her paper ‘Model-Based Theorizing in Cognitive Neuroscience’ (Br J Philos Sci, 2016, 67, pp. 143–68) and Eran Tal for his paper ‘Making Time: A Study in the Epistemology of Measurement’ (Br J Philos Sci, 2016, 67, pp. 297–335).

Causation in Scientific Methods | Rani Lill Anjum

Need scientists worry about philosophy? Or should philosophers get off their backs and let them do their work in peace? Unsurprisingly, many scientists want to stay clear of philosophical discussions. What is more disturbing is when I hear philosophers themselves announce that our discipline has nothing useful to offer science. In my view, they could not be more wrong.

Short Shrift: Word Limit for the BJPS

A while back, we decided to implement a ‘soft’ word limit of 10,000 words and we asked authors who wanted to exceed this limit to write to us with a justification. More than a year later, we’ve found that not one paper submitted that exceeded 10,000 words couldn’t have been pruned and nonetheless retained all that mattered (and, indeed, was and did). So to make things more straightforward for all concerned, the Editors have decided to make the 10,000-word deadline firm. Papers exceeding this length will automatically be returned to authors.

Aesthetics in Science | Milena Ivanova

Aesthetic considerations feature widely in science. Many scientists claim that aesthetic values guide their activities, motivate them to study nature, and even shape their attitude regarding the truth of a theory. Some scientists also regard the product of their intellectual activities, whether scientific theories, models, or mathematical proofs, as works of art. Interestingly, recent studies in neuropsychology have shown that exposure to beautiful equations activates the same area of the brain in mathematicians and scientists as exposure to beautiful pieces of art. How is the concept of beauty understood by scientists; how do they come to regard some features of a theory as aesthetically appealing; and what role can be given to aesthetic considerations in scientific reasoning?

The Limits of the Numerical | Stephen John

There are many good reasons to want social policy to be based, where possible, on numerical evidence and indicators. If the data clearly shows that placing babies on their back reduces the risk of cot death, this information should guide the advice which midwives give to new parents. On the other hand, not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that can be measured matters. The care a midwife offers may be better or worse in ways that cannot be captured by statistical indicators. Furthermore, even when we are measuring something that matters, numbers require interpretation and explanation before they can be used to guide action. It is important to know if neo-natal mortality rates are rising or falling, but the proper interpretation of this data may require subtle analysis. To make matters worse, many actors aren’t interested in proper interpretation, but in using the numbers to achieve some other end; as a stick with which to beat the midwifery profession, say.

BJPS Review of Books: It lives!

The Editors of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science recently took the decision to publish book reviews online-only in order to save as much space as possible for original articles in print editions. Following from this, we are happy to announce the launch of the BJPS Review of Books.

Associate Editor Lara Buchak Featured in this Year’s Philosopher’s Annual

BJPS Associate Editors don’t just act as midwives to great philosophy, they produce it too! Hot on the heels of ex-Associate Editor Marc Lange, Lara Buchak is featured in this year’s Philosopher’s Annual for her joint paper ‘Groupthink’, written with Jeffrey Sanford Russell and John Hawthorn, and published in Philosophical Studies.

IF Success, Then Celebrate!

Editing is more often than not a thankless job (look away now, potential Co-Editor-in-Chiefs). However, this is one of those rare happy moments when it all comes good. Yesterday, Thomson Reuters released the Journal Citation Report for 2015 and the BJPS continues its lead among philosophy of science journals, with an impact factor of 1.738.

Join the BJPS Editorial Team!

We are looking for a new Co-Editor-in-Chief. Prof. Michela Massimi is stepping down from her role with the Journal after two terms at the helm to work on, among other things, her ERC-funded project Perspectival Realism: Science, Knowledge, and Truth from a Human Vantage Point. We are bereft at her parting, and will have more to say […]

The Burden of Proofs | Beth Hannon

One of the always-frustrating aspects of being a copy editor is that it requires an obsessive nature as well as a willingness to accept that perfection isn’t possible; no matter how many times your check the proofs, there’ll always be something that makes it into the final version. Obviously enough, such obsessiveness and knowing when to let go aren’t traits often found to co-exist in one mere human. And in correcting others’ mistakes—and in writing posts such as this—Muphry’s law looms large. All in all, you’re asking for trouble. But despite opening the door to public ridicule, we thought we’d add to our ‘how to’ series with something on copy-editing.

Oi! Ref!

Another year, another plethora of referees to thank! The BJPS continues to go from strength to strength, and while our authors can bask in the limelight, as editors we get to see behind the scenes, to all the hard work done by the referees in taking strong drafts and turning them into shiny, publishable gems. As the list of names below makes clear, the number of people it takes to make a journal work is not small, and that’s before we include all the editors and the team at OUP. What’s more, this list isn’t nearly complete—not everyone consented to be named—and there are more than a few (heroic!) people listed who have written a number of reports for us throughout the year. We are incredibly grateful for all of he considered, thoughtful reports we received throughout the year from these referees—they certainly make our job as editors easier!

Popper Prize 2015

The Editors of the BJPS are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2015 Popper Prize is Matthew Slater for his BJPS paper, ‘Natural Kindness’.

How to Anonymise Your Paper | Beth Hannon

As we’ve mentioned in various places before (for example, here), the BJPS operates a triple-masked system. That means that none of the paperwork you submit should identify you. Sounds straightforward, right? And yet, and yet…

Contemporary Scientific Realism and the 1811 Gill Slit Prediction | Peter Vickers

How exactly are the history and philosophy of science supposed to come together? In the case of the scientific realism debate there is a relatively straight forward answer to this. In short, scientific realists are keen to make some sort of success-to-truth inference. Typically they state that when scientific success is sufficiently impressive, we ought to infer that the hypotheses (or parts or aspects of the theory) that generated this success are at least approximately true. This allows for the possibility that, in the history of science, one might find just that sort of success, born of a theory/set of hypotheses that are definitely not approximately true (whatever your take on ‘approximate truth’). Even allowing for one or two exceptions, the possibility arises that there might be many such cases in the history of science. This makes many scientific realist positions falsifiable—loosely speaking, at least. But as things stand, nobody knows which contemporary realist positions (if any) are indeed falsified because we just don’t have at hand the relevant historical ‘facts’ (again, speaking loosely). What we need to make progress is careful and detailed history of science, dealing with relevant historical episodes…

What to Do with a Revise and Resubmit | Steven French

So, you’ve submitted your paper to the BJPS and waited with bated breath for, well, hopefully not too long, and then your email pings! And there is the longed for response…

It’s Hard Being Popular…

Due to the very welcome fact of the BJPS’s ever increasing popularity, we’ve been forced to make some tough decisions. All print journals work with tight page budgets, which in our case has been fixed by joint agreement between the BSPS and our publishers, OUP. The upshot of this is that it’s often impossible to publish everything we would like to. Competition for space has always been fierce in the BJPS and, as the last few years have seen a 50% increase in submissions to the Journal, things have become that much tougher.

So Now You’re a Referee… | Beth Hannon

It hardly needs saying that referees are essential to the functioning of journals, and the discipline as a whole. Refereeing a paper is a service to the academic community. Those that take this duty seriously don’t just help the editors and the authors; we all benefit from having published papers be as polished as they can be. I’ve written before about the fact that the production of excellent papers is by no means an individualistic endeavour. It takes an academic village to raise a paper! And we all know how busy everyone is, and how refereeing has to be managed alongside all the other teaching, research, and administrative duties that demand attention. All this is to say that we in no way underestimate the hard work done by our referees; on the contrary, we are very grateful indeed.

Triple-Masked Peer Review Is GO!

We are very pleased to announce that the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science has adopted a triple-masked system for peer review, whereby neither the referees nor the editors know the identity of the author(s), and vice versa.

Envoi | Marc Lange

I am honored to have been an Associate Editor of BJPS. I thought of my role not so much as a gatekeeper, but more as a teacher. My aim was to do whatever I could to help authors make their papers as strong as they could be. I often found this to be very gratifying […]

All Is Change

There have been some changes in our editorial make up over the last couple of months. First, the sad news. Michael Wheeler and Marc Lange have both stepped down from their roles as Associate Editors for various reasons, including the pressure of other responsibilities. Both have been with this editorial team from the word go and have put a lot of time and energy into supporting the journal. We’d like to thank them both for all their support, and for their careful and thorough reports that helped not just us but also many authors.On a happier note, we have two new additions to the team: Alyssa Ney and Lara Buchak! We are delighted to have both on board.

Dude, Where’s My Paper? | Beth Hannon

Often when authors email to ask about the progress of their paper, they begin with, ‘I’m sure you get lots of these emails…’, or words to that effect. They’re right, we do. Lots and lots, even with our pretty respectable turnaround times. I don’t mean to suggest that authors should never chase up a paper—sometimes […]

How to Avoid a Desk Rejection | Steven French

This is the first in our new ‘how to’ series. Various members of our editorial team will be sharing their dos and don’ts for authors hoping to have their papers published with us, or elsewhere. Along the way, the mechanics of academic journals in general, and the BJPS in particular, should become plain. In this series, we’ll cover common questions we are asked, and we welcome suggestions for topics you would like to hear more about. Our first installment comes from Co-Chief Editor Steven French, with advice on how to dodge the dreaded desk rejection.

Acknowledgements

The lone philosopher, working in a dingy attic by the scrap end of a guttering candle might have some cultural purchase, and certainly the working conditions might sometimes be a little Dickensian, but what’s apparent from working behind the curtains at the BJPS is that good philosophy is not the result of the heroic efforts of single individuals. We are lucky enough here to receive submissions from the best and brightest in our field, but the distance between that first submission and the finished product should not be underestimated. That gap is bridged by the time, hard work, and thoughtfulness of our referees, in conversation with our authors. For myself, I have learnt more about how to do philosophy in reading the back-and-forth between author and referee than I could ever have imagined, and it has been a huge privilege to be able to eavesdrop on these conversations.

The Sir Karl Popper Prize for 2014

The decision of the Co-Editors of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science is that the Sir Karl Popper Prize for 2014 should be awarded to Rachael L. Brown for her paper ‘What Evolvability Really Is’ (Br J Philos Sci [2014], 65, pp. 549-72).

A Process Ontology for Biology | John Dupré

Reflection on the last hundred years of physics might naturally lead one to suppose that the ancient debate as to whether the world was ultimately composed of things or processes had been resolved in favour of the latter. Quantum physics, whatever else it may be, seems to constitute a decisive rejection of the atomism at […]

Getting Tough on Armchair Models | Anna Alexandrova & Robert Northcott

Models and modelling practices in science were once ignored in philosophy of science; however, in the past fifty years they have been anything but. From Mary Hesse’s pioneering work in the 1960s, to the writing of Ron Giere, Uskali Maki, Nancy Cartwright, Mary Morgan, and Margaret Morrison in the 80s and 90s, to today’s contributions from Michael Weisberg, Mauricio Suarez, Wendy Parker, and too many others to mention, scientific models are now studied left and right. This work is no longer quirky or marginal, and it spans many scientific fields. There are detailed and intricate accounts of what models are, the variety of different models, and the epistemic and social roles played by models. But we would like to suggest that in one respect, more should be done.

Journal Rankings | DEVITT’S LGSCD-INDEX & DEVITT’S GSCD-INDEX

Kate Devitt has done some interesting work to improve upon Google Scholar’s journal rankings…

The Mysterious Methodology of Rational Choice Theory | Christopher Clarke

In the last few decades, economists have puzzled over the curious phenomenon of so-called ambiguity-averse preferences. You are indifferent between (A) receiving a cash prize if a coin lands heads, and (B) receiving the prize if a coin lands tails. You are also indifferent between (A*) receiving the prize if the Nikkei stock index goes up and (B*) receiving the prize if it goes down; for you are totally ignorant about the Japanese stock market. But you prefer (A) to (A*), and you prefer (B) to (B*). Thus, intuitively, you prefer gambling on the more familiar toss of a coin than on the less familiar stock market.

Weekend Reading

If our new virtual issue on the philosophy of psychology and cognitive science wasn’t enough to keep you busy, here are more new things for your reading pleasure.

Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science | Daniel Weiskopf

Psychology emerged within the last two centuries from a long tradition of philosophical speculation about the mind, and it has to a large degree remained entangled with that tradition. Psychological theorizing overlaps with philosophical discourse at many points, and has also produced a host of concepts, methods, and models that shed new light on some of philosophy’s old problems. This combination has made it one of the most fertile sources of material for philosophers of science. The emergence of cognitive science as an organizing conception for the interfield study of the mind is a testament to the reciprocal influence of philosophy on scientific theorizing. As increasing attention has been paid in recent years to the analysis of the practices of particular sciences, the philosophy of psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science have flourished.

Dark Matter: The New Neptune or Vulcan?

BJPS Co-Chief Editor Michela Massimi and Professor of Astronomy Ofer Lahav have written a piece for Astronomy & Geophysics on the Standard Model. Just how many anomalies are necessary for a paradigm shift? 

Philosophy of Science for Scientists, and Science for Philosophers of Science | Ellen Clarke

Most professional philosophers of science would, I hope, agree that our discipline shares the object of its investigations with some other academics, i.e. scientists. But how often do we actually talk to them? Till Grüne-Yanoff has published a paper over at the EJPS, making a case for science students to be taught compulsory philosophy of science courses, and setting out some constraints on the optimal design of such courses. He does a great job of identifying some obstacles that advocates of such courses need to overcome.

The ‘Cell State’ Revived? | Jonathan Birch

What is an organism? Ask any two biologists from any two different sub-disciplines, and you’d probably get two different answers. A physiologist would give you a physiological answer, an immunologist would give you an immunological answer, a developmental biologist would give you a developmental answer, an evolutionary theorist would give an evolutionary answer… and so on. There would, of course, be some important recurring themes (organisms are ‘integrated wholes’, they are ‘organized’, they are in some sense ‘autonomous’) but as soon as we get down to details it’s plurality, not unity, that prevails.

The brand new blog of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

The philosophy of science is entering an exciting era. Its horizons are wider than ever, the topics and areas it covers are even more stimulating, and the interactions with the sciences are both more productive and provocative. As Editors of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, we have front row seats on all this activity, allowing us to witness an unprecedented period of thrilling research being carried out at the frontiers of biology, neuroscience, cognitive science, as well as the physical and human sciences. The sheer variety and stimulating nature of the topics that we have the pleasure to publish is a testament to the vibrancy of the field.